Finding Peace in the New Year
Ever since I was a child, New Year’s Eve has held some special place for me. As a writer, I have loved the idea of redemption and the new beginnings that the New Year promises. And they are only promises, many broken before the vow leaves the mouth, many forgotten by mid-month. But no matter what, it is a night that has been magical to me.
Blame it on Guy Lombardo and the Waldorf Astoria
My search for the perfect New Year’s Eve can be traced, very accurately, back to the New Year Eve’s of my childhood when an old bandleader named Guy Lombardo and his band would play an amazingly glamorous party at the then super swanky Waldorf Astoria.They had a camera on a boom that showed the entire ballroom, round tables, huge dance floor with gowned and tuxed dancers. I remember watching and vowing that when I was big I would attend that party.
When we were kids, my parents went to parties on New Years Eve, they were dressed up, my mother in gowns and my father in a tux. We were with a favorite babysitter–set up with a small Coca Cola machine that dispensed real coke. We had chips and dip, pigs ‘n blankets and other treats that were definitely not the norm.
Once we finished gorging ourselves on these treats, time seemed to crawl until the ball dropped. Close to midnight, we would rouse whichever child had fallen asleep and count down with the enthusiasm of the hopeful.
Later, in my teens, I remember my boyfriend approaching my parents making a professional presentation as to why I should be allowed “out” on New Years Eve. My parents were afraid that the revelry would end in disaster–that “Amateur Night” would mean certain death on the roads.
As a result, when I was 15, I spent my first New Year’s Eve at a bona fide party. I don’t remember much about it except for the fact that, with the exception of driving while intoxicated, almost every promise made to my dad was flagrantly broken in a flash of holiday hijinx
When I met my husband, my New Year’s plans were foiled when, after accepting an invite to a New Year’s Eve party in Long Island, my then boyfriend insisted we stop and see his elderly grandparents first. Dressed in a silk ruffled top and a long silk skirt, I sat and ate a full dinner, then watched Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve. Time clicked off, and I kept wondering when we would leave the party. I was told, at 10 o’clock, that we would have to stay until midnight, because they were alone. Apparently, whomever was set to come over never made it.
When midnight came, they cried tears of loss, made phone calls infused with hope, and then we were released. An hour drive later, we walked into a scene from a bad teen movie, balloons on the floor, accompanied by solo cups and miscellaneous trash coated in confetti.
The host and her husband had an obligatory drink with us, since we had traveled so far, but by the third yawn it was clear that there was no more revelry to be had. My opinion of that night has since mellowed, but as a young woman set to party like a rockstar, it was a woeful disappointment.
Family New Year’s Eve
Once we became parents, our New Year’s Eve took on a more personal flavor. Our kids ate a “kids meal” early and could snack and watch movies, as the adults–my sister and brother in law, and my husband and I, ate a wonderfully “adult” meal of filet mignon and lobster tails. We would dress as if we were out at a nice dinner and generally enjoyed ourselves. Close to midnight, we would all convene, the adults with champagne and the kids with Martinelli’s cider in champagne glasses.
When the kids got older and went out themselves on NYE, we all made sure that our own revelry was tampered in the event that we received a 9-1-1 call for pick up.
When my husband died, we still forged on with our little NYE celebrations. We deep-sixed the dressing up, but my sister, brother-in-law and myself would have our dinner, remove to the other room to watch the ball drop, and at midnight, so I was not to be left out, my brother-in-law would do a group hug and kiss my sister and myself alternatively.
I am very comfortable being a third wheel, fifth wheel, heck even the seventh wheel, if I am with family and friends, but by year two, being a third wheel on New Year’s Eve just made me sad. I say this knowing full well that at some point in my existence, I may go back to being the third wheel on NYE, but for now, it’s tough.
New Year’s Day remains unchanged with my sister’s amazing lasagna. It is a haven of comfort for the revelers of all ages.
New Year’s Eve Peace in A Small Town
So now I get to this year. Through the influence and invitation of a dear man, who happens to be my boyfriend, my New Year’s Eve was spent in a small town. A town as far away from my Waldorf dreams as the moon.But in its simplicity I found the peace and blessing of a New Year.
In this lovely place–a place where the population consists of farmers, loggers, and third-shift workers at a local plant, you can meet everyone in about 25 minutes sitting at the bar of The Wheel Inn, the best establishment (even if it is the only establishment) in town. “The Wheel” is a place where you can come for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks all in one day. In that one day, you may very well meet close to the entire population of the town. And by the next day, they will know your name–that’s what Tom says. And on a side note, the food is sensational,
My first trip to The Wheel was in November, when I came to see my old friend. We met at The Wheel and I had not changed from my day at work. So I had a blouse, pearls and a pair of jeans, in deference to the 4.5 hour drive from New York City, and the fact that it was a Friday.
When I walked in, Tom introduced me to one of the bartenders, a lovely, funny, no-nonsense smart lady who can give as good as she gets, and who can banter while making eye-contact all while continuing her work. Multitasking has nothing on these women.
The owner of The Wheel is another beauty, closer to my age, whose steely ice blue gaze can put anyone in their place. I’ve seen it work on a trained warrior, on an errant employee and a dog. She is a successful local businesswoman whose services are truly essential–to say The Wheel is a hub would be an understatement. On our first trip, I headed to the door for the dining room, Tom steered me to the adjacent door to the bar. “This is where the cool kids sit,” he said in jest. The low light of the bar created a sense of instant camaraderie. I have been there a dozen times since that first day–and although I am clearly an alien, and probably always will be, I am treated with the warmth of a friend.
So when Tom invited me up for NYE at The Wheel, I knew it would be different, but just like Tom, it promised to be fun. I was warned that the drink of the night was “Moose Milk”, a concoction of sin, which included vodka, Baileys and ice cream. I think there are other secret ingredients, but I’m not sure. Many of the cocktails ritually come in a ball jar, but this drink came in a wine glass. It looked like a milkshake but packed the punch of a shot.
The crowd would be early, so we came at eight planning for a late dinner and then waited until midnight. In the course of our hours, there were those that came and went, heading off to some small get-togethers, there was small talk, and well wishes–the conversation was of optimism for the New Year. As the crowd thinned, we chatted quietly, alone if we wanted to be, included in other conversations if we were so inclined.
As the ball began its descent, we quietly counted. Not the raucous shouting of New Year’s gone by, but the quiet tolling announcing the rest of life.
The next morning, it seemed that The Wheel served coffee and food to every reveler in town. We had to grab the last two seats at the bar and I listened as stories were recalled as to the night’s events. The energy was low, but the sense of peace continued.
So it is with reflection, that I admit that my ballroom dancing-Waldorf Astoria-New Year’s Eve dreams may be laid to rest. Having gone to many events of that nature, I realize that they lack personality. Sitting across from someone on a large table, trying to have conversation over the music, dancing mechanically, it probably would have been a miserable let-down.
This year I embrace the peace of the New Year, having kicked it off in a small town surrounded by the warmth of its people.